LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — For Mike Whaley, the gym is therapy.
"That's what helped me deal with pain," he said.
Whaley said his pain began with the death of his father when he was 18. His father lived with multiple sclerosis but died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism.
"He was a huge influence in my life, and when he passed away when I was so young, that's what my coping mechanism was, and my grieving was just eating, and you know, not living the healthiest lifestyle and I just got used to it," Whaley said.
For fifteen years, he numbed his pain with food, alcohol, and cigarettes.
He tried diets, but nothing stuck. That was until a year a half ago, when a coworker invited him to the gym and encouraged Whaley to step on the scale - to confront himself in a real way.
"It was just shocking," he said. "I was shocked. How did I let myself get this heavy, like, what am I doing with my life?"
That day, Whaley weighed 545 pounds. He felt one thing - miserable.
"I had no self-esteem, no confidence, no self-love," said Whaley.
At the time, Whaley may not have felt love for himself, but he did for his daughter. His motivation was born of love and frustration for not being able to do things other dads could.
"Playing with her at the park, rolling around in the grass. Going on rides with her. Sometimes I felt ashamed about it because I'd see other dads do stuff with their daughters or their kids, and I couldn't do that, and I wanted to," Whaley said.
So he chose to commit to weight loss in a big way - by setting small goals.
"I'll be like, okay, this month I'm going to lose 20 to 25 pounds, or I'm going to lift more on this lift or more on that lift and all those goals, once you reach those goals, they all add up to the major goal," Whaley said.
His primary goal is to hit 235 - a weight he hasn't been since losing his father at 18.
At 340 pounds, he's about two-thirds of the way. But as the number on the scale has dropped, he says he's already gained so much.
"I feel self-respect. I feel self-love. I feel confidence. I feel like I found myself. Sometimes I don't recognize myself to be honest because I've lost so much weight. It's an amazing feeling what I've been able to accomplish," Whaley said.